Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Happy 55th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

As I have done several times on this blog, including last year and 10 years ago on their 45th, I want to wish my parents a happy wedding anniversary.  This year marks 55 years of marriage for them, having tied the knot on August 26, 1961.

It hasn't always been smooth, but it's been full of love and dedication.  They've set the bar extremely high for the rest of us to follow.  This is not the way they wanted to spend these years together, but at least they are together - and thankfully so.

They make me proud every day of my life.

I can't imagine raising just one child, let alone the small army my parents brought into the world and guided to adulthood.  As well, I can't fathom the amount of sacrifice that went along with it.  My parents gave up more than I will ever understand in order to have a family, put us through school, clothe and feed us, and instill in us a set of decent morals and values.  The man I am today is owed in a very large part to the child they raised.

I could gush about them for days, so I'll simply say to them that I love you both so much.  And I can't wait to see you in a few weeks!  Congratulations to you!


Friday, August 19, 2016

And So It GOES

The long, national nightmare is over!  I finally had my application accepted by US. Customs and Border Patrol ("USCBP"),

Just to bring you up to speed on this issue with the Global Online Enrollment System, or GOES:  We left our story back in June after I had submitted my initial application in April of this year and anticipated getting approved within the 4-6 week timeframe the USCBP promises on their website.  Six weeks came and nothing, so I called Rep #1 who said he would send my application again.  Then it was 8 weeks and Rep #2 told me I shouldn't have called in at all, but he would send my application through again.

So here is where we pick back up.

Essentially, nothing happened after the conversation with Rep #2, so at the 11 week mark, I called USCBP again.  Remember, calling this agency is no easy feat; it takes LOTS of patience and an excellent cell phone plan.  The number will not connect right away, if it does at all, and it's typical to be the 16th caller in the queue.  The queue moves slowly.  V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y.  This time, it actually took me 2 days of trying to finally reach Rep #3.

I must say, I was amazingly calm during this discussion.  You see, I have a tendency to be a hot head when things don't go the way they are supposed to.  But I remained uncharacteristically cooperative and even-tempered while I brought Rep #3 up to speed on the situation.

His response was simple: "Your application is lost in fiber optics."  Um... what does THAT mean, exactly, or even figuratively?  He then proceeded to tell me that too many people were applying for and taking part in this service.  And then he started giving me a history lesson about the program.

This is where the old me started to return.  I said, "Ok, thanks, but let me stop you right there because I don't care.  I don't care about this history of this program.  Really, I don't care.  What I DO care about is the fact that you - meaning USCBP - offered a product for a fee.  I paid the fee.  You promise on your website that I would have this product for which I paid within 4-6 weeks.  Next week, it will be 12 weeks and I still don't have it.  Plus, you're telling me that you don't know where my application is or if it will even ever get processed.  And on top of that, you tell me I can't reapply.  Sir, if this was ANY other business in the world, I could sue you.  But lucky for you and me, I guess, I can't.  So you're telling me I'm just out of luck?"  His response: "That's about it."

I asked if he could look up my application using the membership number on my application.  He said he couldn't.  I asked if he could look up my application using my assigned PASS ID number.  He said he couldn't.  I asked him what those numbers were for if not to help keep track of the application.  He said he didn't know.

This is your government dollars at work.

To end the conversation, I said, "well, I guess I can try asking my congressman to help me" and he encouraged it.  "Yeah, go ahead, I talk to congressmen offices all the time.  But it won't do any good."  And that was all I needed to hear.

I reached out to Senator Dick Durbin's office seeking help.  Then I reached out to Rep. Mike Quigley, my state congressman.  Then I reached out to NBC5 Responds, the local consumer investigation team.  I explained my situation in great detail to all of them and begged for help.  I heard back from all of them within a day, letting me know that they received my request and were looking into it.  As well, they also gave me the name and contact information of the person at their respective organizations who would be working on it.

TWO DAYS LATER, I received notification that my application for Global Entry had been accepted.  It was a Christmas miracle in July.  And the thing is, I don't know how it happened.  It could have been the rep from Senator Durbin's office, or the rep in Rep. Quigley's office, or someone from the NBC5 news team.  Or it could even have been Rep #3 who realized the injustice and really looked for my application (on second thought...).  Or perhaps my application was simply next in line.  I have no idea.  But the good news was that it had been processed albeit in twice the amount of time they said it would.  So that was Step 1.

Step 2 was getting a in-person interview in order to complete the process.  So I went back online to find an appointment.  First, I had to find a location.  Kevin had his interview at O'Hare Airport, but when I looked for available appointments there, the earliest available was in October.  So I looked at other location where I could possibly be over the next month and only one place had availability:  Port Clinton, OH had an appointment for August 19th at 8:30 AM.  So I took it.

The night before, I drove 5.5 hours to Port Clinton and spent the night in a hotel.  I was up early the next morning and was in the USCBP office at 8:15 AM.  The interview took 5 minutes.  Not kidding.  The office fingerprinted me and told me that I was essentially wasting my time going through all this because there were now "too many people in the program.  Just get in the shortest line" was his advice.  Lovely.  But as it is most of the time with me, it's the principle of the thing.

Step 3, I learned during Step 2, is now to wait for an email that tells me the ID number I've been assigned is valid and ready to be used for travel.  Who knows exactly when that email will come, if ever at all.?  This has been one big continuous guessing game.  But for the most part, I am finally a member of the US Trusted Travel Program and my domestic security checks and international customs checks will hopefully be easier and faster...someday.  We'll see.  We put it all to the test on August 25th when we fly to Copenhagen, Denmark for a 10-day cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line, stopping at all the European capitals on the Baltic Sea.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Bad Apple

About a year ago, my iPod nano died.  Just up and died. One day I plugged it in to charge it and... nothing.  I was sad.  This was the device I bought back in 2006 after I had accidentally drop-kicked my original iPod while running.  I honestly can't be too upset, I guess, because 9 years is actually a pretty good life for any piece of technology.

So up 'til now, I've managed to live without music-on-the-go. However, now with all the driving I do and my eventual return to the gym following my summer-of-hell, it's time to break down and buy a new one.  So yesterday after breakfast downtown with visiting friends, Kevin and I stopped at the Apple Store and I bought a shiny new blue 16GB nano for $149.99.

At first, we expected the nano to be a little cheaper - at least under $100 by now.  The original iPod was created in 2001 and as technology changed and demand grew, the nano was born 4 years later in 2005.  At the time, the 2GB and 4GB nanos sold for $199 and $249 respectively.  So actually the nano has gotten cheaper over the years while offering more storage space.  Less for more: something that doesn't happen too often in the retail industry.

Came home and unpacked me new little blue gem.  The instructions were simple: Just plug it into your computer and the existing iTunes library would find it and sync everything.

Nope.

At first things started to move smoothly and I thought, whew!  And then an error code popped up.  Good ol' error code -69 which apparently relates to syncing errors.  It appears that just about every song I didn't purchase directly through iTunes was now somehow corrupted.  I went online and looked for ways around this code.  There were lots of suggestions on how to fix the problem from so-called techies, but nothing I tried worked.  I went on YouTube to find a tutorial to walk me through the process, but the instructions I found didn't work.

And why didn't all these suggestions work, you may ask?  Because after I accepted that the error code was valid, Apple went to the trouble of automatically deleting ALL of those songs from my iTunes library.  Just up and deleted them.  Wasn't that nice?  So now the 1200+ songs that USED to be in my iTunes library now amounts to exactly 488 songs, which indirectly means that Apple stole about 800 songs from me.  And if we guess that each one of those cost about $1.29 (which I think is the going rate now for songs through iTunes), it comes to about $1,032.  Add that to the $149.99 I paid for the nano and Apple ended up charging me $1,181.99 for my new little blue gem.

The bright side in this (if there is one) is that it's been a year since I've heard the songs in my iTunes library so I can't actually recall off-hand the names of the songs I no longer have.  I expect I'll be reminded of them along the way, and then I'll just have to decide if I want to download them again.  Truth is, most of the music I have/had is a little stale.  And I was going to edit the songs after they uploaded into my new device.  But that should have been MY decision and not Apple's.

Color me blue.  Just like my iPod.


Monday, August 08, 2016

My Lovely Sinus Surgery Synopsis

What I THOUGHT I was going to go through and what most people get when you mention "sinus surgery" was what's known as Balloon Sinus Dilation, a minimally invasive office procedure performed under local anesthesia where the doctor inflates small balloons into your sinus pathways to restore drainage, which are then extracted a few days later.  That's not what I got.

I was told by friends who said they had gone through sinus surgery that it was relatively pain-free and that the most jarring part was seeing the packing they are able to pull out of your nose following.  That's not what I got.

I expected this to be simple and instantaneously relieving.  That's not what I got.

So I needed clarification.  I sent an email through the Northwestern portal to the ENT to ask for a consultation because I felt I was owed a more full explanation of what kind of surgery I had and what was found. I admitted that this information may have been shared with me previously, but that I was only now in the proper state in which to hear it.  Within 2 minutes of sending the message, the doctor called me on the phone.

In short, I had pansinusitis.  There are a total of 8 sinus cavities in the face, 4 on each side.  All 4 on my right side were completely clear.  All 4 on my left were completely clogged.  Since sinuses tend to fill and discharge on both sides simultaneously, the doctors knew there was a bigger problem since there was such an imbalance in mine.  In all 4 sinus cavities on the left side, there was infection and pus.

Here's the official synopsis:
  1. Nasal/sinus endoscopy, surgical; with ethmoidectomy, total
  2. Nasal/sinus endoscopy; with maxillary antrostomy
  3. Nasal/sinus endoscopy,with maxillary antrostomy; with removal of tissue from maxillary sinus
  4. Nasal/sinus endoscopy, surgical with frontal sinus exploration, with removal of tissue
  5. Nasal/sinus endoscopy, surgical with sphenoidotomy; with removal of tissue
All this mean they cleaned out the Maxillary cavity, which is the one in the cheek area, as well as the Ethmoid cavity, which is the one just above the eye, close to the nose (the one that had swollen and caused me to go to the hospital).  The Frontal cavity, the one above the eye on the forehead, was also filled, however the plan was to allow that one to drain on its own, now that the two cavities below it were empty.  Also, based on my anatomy, the drainage tube from the Frontal down through my nose is not a straight shot, as it is for 99% of the population.  My tube has kind of a zig-zag, which causes for slower drainage.  To fix this, the doctor would need to drill up into that cavity, which he only wants to do if absolutely necessary.  It still might have to happen, but with luck, it will eventually drain on its own over time.  By the way, remember that all of this was done through my left nostril which is pretty amazing when you see where each of these sinus cavities is located.

The really big issue was the last cavity, the Sphenoid, which is located deeper in the skull behind the eye.  While the infections and blockages in the other three cavities were recent (the infection contracted back in May) the infection in the Sphenoid had been many years in the making.  This problem did not initially make itself known on the original CT scan and was only discovered during surgery.  The doctor cleaned out mold and fungus balls that had been building for years.  Because mold does not need chlorophyll to survive, it's apparently easy to grow inside your body as it feeds off of other organisms.  So from ALL of the sinus infections that I have had over the last several years, this mold and fungus had been growing exponentially.  Symptoms would be alleviated due to antibiotics, but the infection itself never really left and would lay dormant until slightly triggered by something like a ride in an airplane when my sinuses would work to balance the pressure in my head.  This is why I would almost always get a sinus infection after a flight.

And this is also why the doctor wondered why I wasn't in more pain that he expected.

Hearing all this actually made me feel better, in a way, because I was wondering why I was having such a difficult time dealing with and healing from what many of my friends considered a simple procedure.  I felt justified somehow, and ironically relieved knowing that this was not as simple as I was initially told and expected.

So where are we now, 18 days following surgery and 10 days after the follow up:  Overall I feel pretty good.  An occasional headache will pop in, mostly on the side or top of my head.  They're not too intense anymore and I no longer feel the need to take Aleve or Tylenol to combat them.  I am still performing sinus rinses twice a day and will continue until my antibiotic (now on Doxycycline) runs out in another 5 days or so, then I'll just do once a day I guess forever.  My energy is coming back, as is the weight I lost over the course of the ordeal.  I get a stuffy nose on the left side and wake up about 4 hours after I go to bed every night.  I get up and walk around to alleviate the pressure and then eventually go back to bed.  We're going to put a humidifier in the bedroom to see if that helps at all.

I have another follow-up with the doctor sometime in September, but everything is pointing to a successful albeit slow recovery.  We are going on another European trip the end of August and if working at Make-A-Wish taught me anything, it's that one needs to have a goal in order to heal.  So that's what I am shooting for.  And I hope I make it - if even by a nose.

Friday, August 05, 2016

My Lovely Sinus Surgery Follow Up

Friday, July 29th finally came.  It's a day that I spent an inordinate amount of time welcoming, dreading, and eventually hating.  And here's why.

It had been 8 days since my sinus surgery.  And to be honest, I was feeling progressively worse each day.  I had been told by the doctor that I would feel immediate relief following surgery, but that didn't seem to be the case.  If anything, the headaches increased and I wasn't eating much due to overall nausea of having "stuff" dripping out of my nose and/or down the back of my throat constantly.  If I was supposed to be feeling better, no one informed my sinuses about it.  This had not been the smooth, easy, or immediate recovery I was led to expect.

My original follow-up appointment was scheduled for 4:00 PM, but I begged for an earlier time because I wanted to put an end to the pain as quickly as possible.  So the doctor's office thankfully moved my appointment to 8:30 AM on the same day.
Throughout the previous week, I learned that I am in no way shape or form prepared if I were to contract any form of long-term illness.  Neither emotionally nor mentally will I be able to handle myself and remain positive if I were to get cancer or any life threatening medical condition.  Occasionally you hear stories about people who've lost the fight to cancer and people will say things like "I never heard him complain" or "she always remained so positive despite how she must have felt".  I'm here to admit that I will NOT be one of those people.  My apologies right now to Kevin, my close friends and family, but I will forever be amazed by people who have and will face down any form of life-threatening illness and remain positive and uncomplaining about it.  When I go, I'm going to take everyone with me
Kevin drove me to Northwestern for my appointment.  We parked in the parking garage and as we were walking through the breezeway into the building, I noticed we were following a family of 4:  a mom and dad and 2 boys under the age of 10.  All of them were wearing tee shirts about fighting brain tumors.  And I suddenly hated myself.  Here I was, a grown man with a little sinus problem turning it into a bigger deal than it needed to be, and then here was this family with (I suspect) a child who may have a brain tumor.  I didn't say anything to Kevin about it for a few days (he had seen it too) but it weighed very heavily on me for the rest of the day.  I felt foolish.  I still hurt like crazy, but felt almost ridiculous for allowing this to cripple me like it had.  This is not to negate the fact that I was in pain, but it did help me put it into context.  And I felt ashamed.

We got to the doctor's office and they sat me in an exam chair and readied me for the eventual vacuuming process.  The assistant first sprayed a saline moistener up my nose, followed by a numbing solution.  After sitting for a few more minutes, the doctor came in to start.  He started talking about my surgery and, to be honest, I was only half paying attention until I heard him say, "It's surprising that you weren't in more pain."  Kevin responded with, "You didn't live with him."  And the doctor said, "No, I mean even when you came in for the initial visit, you didn't seem like you were in that much pain and you should have been."  Trust me, I was.  Then, I was reassured again by the doctor, that I should feel instantly better when this process finished.

He fired up the machinery and started the procedure. I leaned back in the chair and the doctor inserted the long, thin vacuum tube into my nose and within a few seconds it felt as though he was drilling into my skull.  Despite his using what I was told was a vacuum, it felt more like a scraping.  All I could do was grab my legs in pain, writhe in agony and beg for him to stop.  Which he did.

Let me say here and now that this was the most painful process I have ever gone through in my life.  And remember, I've suffered heart attacks and endured open-heart surgery, all of which in retrospect were a cake-walk compared to what I was about to experience.  I even went back and read my journals and blog posts concerning my heart surgery and nothing in them suggested that the pain I experienced then was overwhelming or beyond what one would naturally expect after going through such events.

I sat up in the chair and was engulfed by a wave of emotion unlike anything I can ever remember.  I quickly became hysterical and hyperventilated.  The doctor admitted right then that they sometimes give Valium to people before this procedure and that maybe they should have offered it to me.  between gasps of breath, I managed to respond, "Yes, maybe you should have."  He left the room to allow me time to calm down, but it took several minutes for me to regain my composure.  I could not stop crying and found it difficult to get my breathing regulated.  It felt like such a violation - a complete assault and attack on me.  Had Kevin not been with me, holding my hand and comforting me, it would have been an even more difficult process.

Kevin told me that it was no wonder I was experiencing such an emotional release.  I had been dealing with this for the last few months and was physically and emotionally exhausted at this point.  And I agree that certainly played a part.  Perhaps too, so did the idea of the child with the brain tumor play a part as well.  But along with those ideas was the excruciating pain of having something that felt like - again, drilling - happening, especially to my face, especially inside my head.  Your face and head are who you are.  It could be why many people, myself included, fear dentists.  The idea of something coming at my face and head - well, it's a natural instinct to duck, get out of the way, or otherwise protect your face and head from approaching objects.

And the doctor was only half done.

I knew I had to muster the courage to allow him to come back in and continue doing what created my anxiety and meltdown.  Throughout my life, when faced with adversity, I have made it a practice to dig in my heels and accept my situation with an inner cheer-leading monologue that goes something like, "Okay, here we are.  This has to happen.  Accept it and move on.  This is temporary."  And then I get through it.  But it took A LOT for me to cheer myself through this procedure.  Again, I credit Kevin being in the same room with me.  So after about 15 minutes of me struggling to calm down and regain my composure, the doctor came in for Round 2.

Again, I sat back in the chair and the vacuum was inserted into my nose.  Instantly, the pain came right back and I fought to stay in control.  The doctor commented that I wasn't squirming as much this time, but it felt no less of an assault.  Again, I dug my fingers into my legs and again I pulled at the cuffs of my shorts.  And after about a minute, which seemed like an hour, it was over.  And again, I was flooded with emotion.

The doctor said a few more things, none of which I remember.  Kevin was diplomatic and I'm sure handled the conversation.  I was invited to remain however long I needed to before leaving, which was about another 5 minutes or so.  On the way out of the room, I grabbed a tissue box, tucked it under my arm, and told Kevin, "I paid for these" and out we walked to go home.

The rest of that day is mostly lost to my memory, either from blocking it out or by sleeping it off.  I almost never cry.  Almost.  I'm just not emotional in that way. This was the most sad and negative emotion I had spent in one day, perhaps in my whole life.  I spent the rest of the day intermittently bursting into tears for no reason.  And I'm not at all surprised if my mind is choosing to forget it.

I continued to get better through the rest of that weekend.  I returned to work on Monday and despite not yet finding the best position in which to sleep, continued to feel better each day.  Headaches and spontaneous drainage aside, every day showed more improvement.  But one thing was still clear - I was lacking knowledge of what I had just gone through.  I was never given (or don't remember getting) an explanation as to why I woke up from surgery 2.5 hours beyond what I was told.  I had no idea what surgery had actually been performed.  I was told twice by the same doctor that I would instantly feel relief following as many procedures to no avail.  I was in the dark.  So on that same Monday, I reached out to the doctor for a consultation to find out just what the hell had happened.

And here's what he said...


Thursday, August 04, 2016

Post 700!!

I pause in the middle of my sinus surgery story (oh yes, there's MORE!) to pat myself on the back.  For I am now officially a member of the 700 Club.  No, not THAT one.

Both unbelievably and completely believable is the fact that this marks my 700th post to this blog!  Unbelievable because I've managed to keep this thing going for more than 11 years and have somehow come up with 700 things to say.  Completely believable because I have 700 things to say.  Just a little less than two years ago, I had hit 600.

To be honest, the real number of postings should probably be somewhere in the 875-900 range.  Back in 2006 when I found out my then-boss was reading my blog, I went back through and deleted several posts that were work-related.  I learned a lesson then about anonymity and lack thereof.  Since then, I've no longer posted about problems associated with my actual place of employ.

As well, about a year or so after I started to work for Make-A-Wish, I realized that I should probably stop what had become a weekly and very popular staple on my blog: Monday Eye Candy, which was nothing more than a gratuitous picture of some random hunk.  I went back through and deleted all those posts as well.

In both cases, I censored myself which annoyed me at the time.  But I'm now satisfied that I deleted those posts because I eventually came out to my family back home and they all started reading my blog.  In a way, I guess I classed it up a bit.  And I am glad about that.

Here's to another 700, with number 701 following shortly.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming....


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

My Lovely Sinus Surgery Recovery

Like I said previously, everything I had been told about the anticipated surgery was that it would be routine, in and out, feeling better immediately.  In short, simple and instantaneously life changing.  I had actually scheduled the surgery at Northwestern Hospital downtown when I did because of this information.  And in the beginning, all signs pointed to a successful and speedy recovery.  I even posted a picture of myself on Facebook - looking pretty tired but still giving the thumbs up that everything was A-OK just 24-hours after the surgery.

And then - I guess - all the anesthesia and pain medications started to wear off.  Friday, the day after surgery, started off well.  I was able to remove the blood hammock and my nose was now sensitive enough to know when a drip was coming, so I was able to catch drips as they happened rather than tape a bandage to my face all the time.  What's interesting about this was that discharge, whether blood or mucus or saline from rinses, would pool in my nose depending on how I held my head.  But when I turned my head ever so slightly or looked in a different direction, it all came pouring out at once.  As Friday wore on, so did my nerves.

For the first time ever, I treated myself to Grub Hub, but by the time it arrived, I couldn't eat.  Perhaps it was due to all the stuff dripping down the back of my throat that was causing nausea and a lack of appetite.  So I found myself mostly just laying on the couch in the living room.  Which was also where I spent the entire next day, Saturday, only getting up to take medication.  I didn't eat all day but kept trying to drink as much fluid as possible.  I had gone off of all caffeine, so no tea or my beloved Diet Pepsi since a week prior to surgery (which was directed by the doctor).  I figured that while I was healing, it would make sense to stay off of caffeine as well.  As Saturday wore on, the headaches increased in frequency and intensity.  I'd never had a migraine before, but I imagined that this must be similar to how they feel - absolutely crippling and nauseating.

During one trip to the bathroom, I looked in the mirror and notice that the area above my left eyelid had swollen some.  The headaches I was experiencing seemed to come from behind my eye as well as above.  So I made a ice pack and continued to lay on the couch.  I kept getting bouts of the equivalent of "brain freeze" from keeping the ice packs on too long.  I'm not sure if they offered any kind of relief, but they were as soothing a thing as I could find.  Eventually I slept, either from pure exhaustion or passing out from the pain.  I didn't do a great job keeping in touch with Kevin during this time because, quite frankly, it was too much to do.  I'm sure he was wondering what was going on, but I simply didn't have the energy to even send a text to him.

When I woke on Sunday morning, I instantly knew something was wrong.  I looked in the mirror and my left eye was now swollen halfway shut.  I could no longer look to my left because it was too painful, like needles sticking in my eye and it hurt like hell to move my eye in any given direction.  I mustered up enough energy to take a shower and then called 911.  I called Kevin at 6:30 AM California time and let him know I was making a trip to the ER.  I can't imagine how frantic he must have felt.  But again - this was all not supposed to happen.

The ambulance took me to Swedish Covenant Hospital which is about 5 blocks from our house.  After 2 hours there, the doctors wanted me to go back to Northwestern.

I don't know what "ambulance policy" is, but I assume is it their responsibility to get you to the closest place.  Amiright?  In any event, I'm going to have to pay for 2 ambulance trips.  Still waiting on those bills to come in.  Yeesh.

I got to Northwestern around Noon on Sunday and was pretty miserable by that time.  To add to my pain, I was immediately chastised by a man in scrubs.  He could have been an ENT, a surgeon, or just the ER doctor on duty, but he told me that I should "always return to where I originally had a surgery because no surgeon likes to clean up another surgeon's work."  Seriously, that's what he said.  I simply looked at him out of the one eye I could see out of and said, "I don't care."  Seriously, that's what I said.  He left the room and I never saw him again.  The first nurse I saw apparently taught the doctor everything he knows because her bedside manner was along the lines of Nurse Ratchett.   I'm in pain, exhausted, a little scared that I might lose an eye, and very confused.  Nurse Ratchett came in to talk to me and when I was slow to respond while gathering my thoughts, she barked, "why are you talking like that; what's WRONG with you?" I mean....     I love my Northwestern physicians.  But the hospital......

After that, it was a barrage of doctors, nurses, residents, interns and students coming in to look at me and discuss me as if they were looking into a deli case trying to choose between the chicken salad and the antipasti plate.  Medicine in a teaching hospital is so clinical and void of personal relationships.  There was one nurse who was super sweet and compassionate.  She wanted to hear my entire story.  I wish I could remember her name.  To compound my misery, I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything, not even water, until they could decide if they wanted to perform de-pressurizing surgery.  So from noon til about 7:30 PM, I sat in an examining chair just waiting for something to happen.  The chair was like one that would be at your eye doctor's office.  It didn't recline and the armrests were too low to use.  So I couldn't nap or relax.  I just sat there, my isolation being occasionally interrupted by one or two people who just wanted to look at me.

The powers-that-be decided to keep me in the hospital overnight to watch the swelling.  I honestly don't recall ever getting any medication to treat the swelling.  I was given morphine for pain, but that's all I remember.  I asked for new ice packs a few times because those were the only thing that seemed to make me feel better.  I was eventually put into a private room around 7:30 and finally received food around 8:00 PM.  This was the first thing I'd eaten for two days.

Meanwhile, Kevin had been making his trek back to Chicago from San Diego and was encountering every possible obstacle along the way.  You know how it is when you only want to get to something and you hit every red light.  First, his flight was delayed leaving California.  Then once they got to Chicago they had to stay in the air and circle for a while because of bad weather.  And then once he landed, the lines for taxis to the city rivaled those at Disney World on the busiest day of the year.  All the poor man wanted to do was get to me.  It's probably funny now, but I can imagine his panic during the process.  He finally arrived at my room sometime around 12:30 AM.  Admittedly, I instantly felt better.

At some point overnight, the swelling went away and I was able to move my eye again without any pain.  The doctors had no idea what happened, but Kevin actually diagnosed the problem during his flight home:

On Friday, the day following surgery, I started doing nasal sinus rinses.  I know now that even when sinuses are healthy, the rinse is supposed to be applied gently.  I was a bit more aggressive and blew the stuff up in my nose with such force that the saline lodged in both of my ear canals rather than drip out the other side of my nose.  I told Kevin about it in a subsequent phone call.  It was his belief that I might have blown a clot or surgery debris up into my head which then blocked my ethmoid sinus cavity from draining.  Then, either another rinse or the ice packs eventually dislodged the blocking and everything went back to normal.

I told this to my doctors on Monday morning in the hospital and they bought it.  What can I say, I married a genius.

I was discharged Monday afternoon and spent the rest of the week at home.  I tried going back to work on Tuesday morning, but only lasted about an hour before needing to leave.  The headaches were pretty intense during the week as my sinuses adapted to no longer having an infection or buildup in them.  And the drainage was semi-constant.  To be honest, there wasn't much difference in how I felt AFTER surgery than BEFORE surgery.  However the next step - vacuuming out my sinus cavity was supposed to be when I would finally notice relief.

From here, this story gets better...   and worse.

Monday, August 01, 2016

My Lovely Sinus Surgery

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my lovely sinus infection.  I've decided to write about this much the same way I wrote about my heart attack and surgery 11 years ago - in stages.  For me it helps to deal with things in stages rather than all at once.  And since this blog is my catharsis, here we go:

The short update on the infection was that 60 days after initially contracting it, I still had it, along with the residual effects of having a stubborn infection that took MANY drugs to get rid of. Since we'd returned to Chicago on Monday, May 30th, I'd been on a Zpak, two rounds of methylprednisolone, two rounds of Prednisone, three 14-day rounds of Clindamycin, and Tramadol for the heachaches.  Most likely, the initial infection is long gone.  But the horrible smell I wrote about was STILL present.  I guess that all this time I hadn't been smelling the infection so much as just the blockage or backup of mucus that was being housed in my sinuses.  Which makes sense now because it smelled so putrid.

At the urgence of my Primary Care Physician, I had a CT scan which led him to send me to an Otolaryngolist.  I probably should have seen someone in this specialty years ago, but it was somehow comforting to know that there was now a specialist at the helm on this ride.  My initial appointment with him yielded some old and surprisingly new information.

For example, I knew I was clogged, but I didn't know to what extent.  After the specialist talked me through the results of the CT scan, I learned that the major sinus cavities on my left side (the Frontal, the Ethmoid, and the Maxillary) were 100% full and clogged with mucus, pus and - wiat for it - mold!  In short, endoscopic surgery would be my only relief.  I also learned that I have a deviated septum.  This was both surprising yet not surprising at the same time.  I figured I had one due to the fact that I snore - or am told I snore - so I figured I had some sort of nasal abnormality.  And while about 80% of people have this affliction, you're either born with it or develop it from trauma or blunt force to the face.  Since I don't recall ever being hit directly in the face with an object, I must have always had this.

I posted on Facebook that I was going to have sinus surgery, and those friends who had already been through it reached out to offer condolences and support.  I heard what each of them had been through and none of it sounded too scary.  After all, I'd been through a quadruple bypass and a 16-hour tattoo application.  I can take pain.

So I scheduled the appointment.  Stupid Alert:  I scheduled it for the day after Kevin left for ComiCon in San Diego, which had been planned for months.  But from what I had been told, the surgery sounded simple enough.  I was told it would start at 9:45 AM and I would be out by 1:00 PM. I was also told by the doctor that I would instantly feel better following surgery and that I just needed to take it easy for a few days.  I certainly didn't want Kevin to stay home and I also selfishly didn't want to postpone the surgery any longer.  So we decided to go ahead with it, with dear friend, Jessica, stepping in as surrogate and Kevin checking in on me now and then.  I'd more than likely just be sleeping most of the time anyway.

I arrived when I was supposed to and by my estimate was put under pretty close to 9:45 AM.  The last thing I remember was the lovely gas mask coming over my face.  Eventually I woke up sitting in an examining chair in an outpatient room.  How they manage to move you from one place to another when you can't remember a thing always astounds me.  But what really surprised me was when I looked at the clock on the wall.  It said 3:30 PM.  It took me a second, but I eventually thought, "hey, I was supposed to be out of here 2.5 hours ago.  What actually happened?"

The trouble with learning about what actually happened and even, for that matter, what my post-op care should be, is that the news was delivered while I was still by-and-large still under anesthesia. It's puzzling that they won't let you leave the hospital on your own accord, but they are trusting you to remember what happened while you were knocked out, and how to take care of yourself when the only thing you can think about is how red that nurses's blouse is.  Man, is that red!  I wonder what shade of red that is.  It's just so vibrant.  There are lots of shades of red.  I think Wolf Blitzer must be the dullest man on television.

So while wearing what can only be referred to as a "blood reservoir hammock" under my nose, I was able to walk out of the medical center into the loving, waiting arms of Jessica.  She drove me home, expressing the same concern I had about why I was in surgery 2 hours longer than what I had been told.  She dropped me off at home, went to fill my prescriptions and get supplies.  She wanted to stay with me, but I really just wanted to sleep and talk to Kevin.  Except for a dripping bloody nose, I felt just fine.

So I settled in for the recovery.  OH. MY. GOD - the recovery...